France

Thursday 19th May, 2011

Driving to Paris

Today was very uneventful and was spent in the car driving the 553km to Paris. We said our goodbyes at Wiesloch, entered our next address into the trusty TomTom and headed off. It was another glorious day of around 26 degrees with blue skies au-go-go – the perfect cruising day.

We noticed that the road quality suddenly went down hill once we crossed the border into France. In Germany we had pristine smooth roads built for speed, in France they were just like the Aussie ones – potholed and patched.

We arrived in Paris at about 6.00pm, said Bonjour to Bruno (who Angela met on the Gold Coast at Salsa classes in 2004) and made arrangements to drop the mighty Panda back to Europcar. What an experience! It was made easier by Bruno’s local knowledge and we are very thankful as we may not have found it on our own.

Tomorrow, an exploration of Paris… au revoir for now…

Friday 20th May, 2011

Exploring Paris

We started the day with coffee and a fresh Pain au Chocolat from the local bakery. Delicious!

Bruno’s mum, Micheline, picked us up for our tour of Paris. She has been a taxi driver in Paris and knows her way round and offered to drive us to all the important tourist spots. We started at the Tour Eiffel where we climbed to the second storey. 690 steps. There were lifts to the top of the tower but the line was ridiculously long with a waiting time of nearly an hour to get tickets. We took the short line, hence we climbed.

The views of the city are fantastic and you can walk around the viewing platform to get a 360 degree view. I was surprised to learn that the tower only took two years to construct back in the 1870’s.

Eiffel Tower

“The Eiffel Tower was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower – it was constructed from 1887 to 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair.”

We continued on from here to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysees to Place de Vendome, which is the really fancy part of Paris where the Ritz Hotel is and where Princess Di had her last meal. We then went to the Opéra de Paris and then to Pigale, which is where the Moulin Rouge is.

Arc de Triomphe | Champs Elysees

“The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces.”

Place de Vendome

“Place Vendôme, is a prestigious square located in the first arrondissement and was created as a monument to the glory of the armies of Louis XIV.”

Opéra de Paris
Moulin Rouge

“Moulin Rouge is best known as the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance.”

After this, we travelled up the hill to Mont Matre to see the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. There were entire views of Paris from here and you could see for miles. We stopped for lunch at a great café where Micheline knew the owners and then continued on to Pompidou, Hotel de Ville (the residence of the Mayor and also the Town Hall) and then to Notre Dame. The stained glass windows in Notre Dame were stunning and some of the best I have ever seen.

Sacre Coeur

“The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris (or Sacre Coeur) is a Roman Catholic church and popular landmark in Paris. It is a popular landmark and the second most visited monument in Paris – the basilica stands at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city.”

Hotel DeVille

“The Hôtel de Ville is the building housing the city’s local administration – it has been the headquarters of the municipality of Paris since 1357.”

Notre Dame

“Notre-Dame de Paris is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The cathedral was consecrated to the Virgin Mary and considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.”

Saint-Jacques du Haut-Pas

“Saint-Jacques du Haut-Pas is a Roman Catholic parish church located at the corner of Rue Saint-Jacques and Rue de l’Abbé de l’Épée in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. The church has been registered as a historical monument since 4 June 1957.”

Pompidou

“Pompidou houses the Public Information Library; the Musée National d’Art Moderne, which is the largest museum for modern art in Europe; and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research.”

We then continued through St Germain du Pres and St Michele to see the Grand Palais and Petit Palais and crossed Pont Alexandre III (the most beautiful bridge in Paris) to see Les Invalides (Napolean’s tomb).

Grand and Petit Palais
Pont Alexandre III

“The Pont Alexandre III is a deck arch bridge that spans the Seine in Paris. It connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with those of the Invalides and Eiffel Tower. The bridge is widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in the city.”

Les Invalides

“Les Invalides, formally The National Residence of the Invalids is a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, France, containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building’s original purpose.”

What a taste of Paris. Tomorrow we will be heading back to the city for more exploration on foot…

Saturday 21th May, 2011

More exploration of Paris

It was another glorious day weatherwise in the city of luuurve. We took the Metro into the city and started at St Michel where we wandered around the old part of town. We spent the whole day exploring on foot and having a good look at the surrounds.

A highlight of the day was seeing the Louvre Museum and wandering around in the grounds. It is a massive building and we will explore its contents tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing the Mona Lisa.

Gallery L’Orangerie

We also went to Gallery L’Orangerie where there is an amazing Monet exhibition and spent an hour or so admiring the waterlilies and enjoying the tranquil ambience.

Monet Exhibits
Renoir
Galleries Lafayette

We then headed to Galleries Lafayette which is the French equivalent of Harrods but with a bit more class. The building is just beautiful!

Around Paris

We arrived home tired and exhausted at around 10pm after an uneventful trip on the Metro and a nice meal at St Michel. The Metro is quite amazing with trains running every 5 minutes or so and will take you all over Paris quite quickly and cheaply. Tomorrow, the Mona Lisa…

Sunday 22nd May, 2011

Art, art and more art

We started the day with a trip to the local markets with Bruno and Emilie. The markets had a big indoor area where you buy fruit and veg, meat, fish et al and even bigger outdoor area with clothes and general market ‘stuff’.

We stopped for coffee on the way home and then caught the Metro straight to the Louvre Museum.

Wow!

What an overwhelming experience a day at the Louvre was. There is so much priceless beauty in the form of sculptures and paintings you don’t quite know where to look, what to think and how to feel. Napoleon was quite the collector…

We didn’t spend nearly enough time here as we should have but you could quite easily lose a week and still not see everything properly. The most recognised pieces here are Da Vinci’s La Gioconda (Mona Lisa), Michelangelo’s Captif (The Dying Slave) and Aphrodite of Milos (Venus de Milo) so we made sure we saw them first.

La Gioconda (Mona Lisa)
Captif (The Dying Slave)
Aphrodite of Milos (Venus de Milo)
Miscellaneous Masterpieces
Around The Louvre

After we left we sat by one of the water fountains and witnessed an unfortunate Spanish guy (and his girlfriend) drop his camera into the water… whoops! He had just been in the Louvre as well and most likely wrecked his camera but more importantly lost his pictures of the day. Poor guy.

We Metro’d it back to St Michel for dinner and then continued ‘home’ for an early night… and some washing. Tomorrow we will be seeing Versaille, can’t wait…

PS – Bruno says hi to all that know him

Monday 23rd May, 2011

A trip to Versailles

Bruno’s mum Micheline kindly offered to drive us to Versailles to see the Palace where Maire Antoinette lived. We arrived to discover that it was not open to the public on Mondays, however the gardens were so we wandered around them and had a picnic lunch.

The Palace is large and ornate and the gardens are even bigger and symmetrical with a large lake at the bottom where people hire boats to row. There are water features / fountains as well but unfortunately these were not working as the Palace was closed.

They look great when they’re off so we can only imagine how spectacular they would be with water flowing through them. We spent a few hours wandering around before leaving for Paris once again.

Palace of Versailles
Palace Gardens

We left the Palace and drove through Versailles to check out the buildings and architecture. After a nice leisurely drive back to Paris, we had a final wander around the city and stopped at a local cafe for a well-deserved drink.

We ended the day with a lovely home-cooked dinner with Bruno, Emilie and Micheline. They have all been very welcoming hosts and couldn’t have done more for us. We wish them well for their upcoming wedding and all the best for the future.

Thank you Bruno, Emilie, Micheline and Paris, we’ve had a great time.

Au revoir until next time…

Trip progress
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